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October 15, 2008Penn State redshirt junior quarterback Daryll Clark is off to a fantastic start in the first seven games of his career as a starter. Currently, Clark has the best pass efficiency rating in the Big Ten in addition to his 16 touchdowns through the air and on the ground. As the season continues this weekend with the Lions' match-up against Michigan, Clark sat down for a question and answer teleconference with local and national media members on Wednesday morning.
Check out the complete transcript of the session below!
Are you worried that the nine-game losing streak might get in the way of your preparation?
No, not at all. What started this week, I thought it's been pretty good. We've been practicing well so far. We're practicing against a team that is better than their record. Michigan, I feel, they are better than what their record shows and we're not preparing for a team that lost to Toledo. We're preparing for a team that beat Wisconsin. Their defense is a pretty tough defense, after watching film. And, you know, obviously, everyone's been thinking that we haven't beaten them... There's no one on our roster that has beaten Michigan. That's a thought that will be in our heads but we have to push that aside. We can't just dwell on that and we just have to prepare like we've been preparing each week and we'll be fine.
Because of the way the offense has been so dominant this year, the defense has been kind of pushed in the background, which is unusual for Penn State. Can you talk a little bit about how well the defense is playing?
I don't really want to say that they've been pushed in the background because there have been times that those guys have bailed us out. Take the Purdue game - our offense wasn't clicking at first but the defense did a good job of keeping those guys off the scoreboard until we got it going. They've been doing a great job all year long and without the defense, we may have to put on some more points and it would make it a little tougher for us. All around, I think everyone's been doing a great job and it's been a real bigtime team effort.
When you took over the starting job, did you think you'd be able to play the way you have? If so, what gave you that confidence?
Well, I really wasn't sure what to expect. Obviously, you want to come out and play the best way possible without having anything go wrong. That's a first-year starter's dream. And, so far, it's been going pretty well. Each week, the confidence gets better and it gets stronger as you go throughout the season and when it's going the way it's going, it makes you feel good and it's not just me. We all have been doing our part. Everyone knows their role and they've been working it together. And, our offensive line, I can't credit them (enough)... I love those guys. Those guys go out and do a great job each and every week. And, it never fails to amaze me how well they pass protect and run block for our guys. Those are the unsung heroes of the football team and sometimes they really go unnoticed so I'm always the one to recognize those guys because without them, we probably don't do as many of the things that we've done.
What does Michigan's defense like to run this year?
They don't really run anything different that we haven't seen, it's just that they do a great job of disguising coverages and disguising blitzes. They'll make their moves right at the snap of the ball. The safeties do a lot of moving around back there to try to mess around with you before the snap, thinking they're in one defense and then go into another. So, it's going to take a great deal of film study and execution this week to get the job done and I feel that we can get it done. I'm very confident in this team, but we're going to have to be patient, we're going to have to work really, really hard, and concentrate and be on our 'A' game because they're going to try to come in here and because they have a team that's capable of actually coming in here and taking a win, so, we're going to have to do everything we have to do to get the win.
How did you make it out of the Wisconsin game (physically) and how are you feeling bump and bruise-wise after seven weeks?
Well, obviously, you're going to feel a little sore after the game. I took a couple of real good shots, as you said. Casillas is a real solid kid and he got some real good shots on me. I had a nice bruise on my elbow but you know, those are the things that deal with all the time. Nothing ice can't fix. And, as of right now, I'm feeling great. But, coming off of the game on Sunday and Monday, I was a little sore.
How did you feel after that shot on the goalline on the option pitch?
It shocked me. I couldn't believe how hard the hit was. He got me really good and that's one thing about the option. You take the ball and you drive all the way until... and you don't know if he's going to hit you or not so you just gotta prepare for it. THe hit ended up being a real good hit but I got up, shook it off, continued to play, man. That's part of the game. That's something that you have to do, continue to play.
Some guys say this is just another game and others say they have a little extra motivation for the Michigan game. Where do you stand on it, personally?
Oh, yeah, I have to agree with them. Obviously, this is a team that we haven't beaten in a while so that's a little bit of fuel. And also, there was a quote made by one of their players that I got an email from someone, I forget who it was, it was a quote saying that, Mark this down, we will win against Penn State next week. You know, a guaranteed win that they're making. So, that's a little fuel to the fire as well. But, like I said, we have to prepare the right way in order to win this game because Michigan is a better team than their record.
When you get the call for that type of option play where you know you're going to get hit, do you ever have second thoughts about running those?
No. It's all about taking one for the team. If that's what you have to do in order for us to get in the end zone then that's what you have to do. The hits are a part of the game. You just get up, shake it off, hope you don't get too hurt to the point where you can't play and just get up and get ready for the next play.
Have you guys watched the Michigan-Illinois game and specifically, how do you think Illinois was able to put up so many points on them?
You know what, I think it started with the big plays. Illinois made a lot of big plays. There was one play where Juice Williams threw a screen pass to their running back and he split the defense and took it about 50 or 60 yards. They had a lot of big plays. There were a couple of defensive breakdowns against them and I don't think their offense did very well against Illinois' defense. It's a combination of a lot of things in there but, you know, you watch that... There's not a doubt that we have confidence that we can get the job done and we can execute everything that we need to in our offense but it's going to take a great deal of concentration and patience because their defense is going to come to play.
What kind of a relationship do you share on the field with A.Q. Shipley? Is he the kind of guy that can keep you in the game when (you take a hard hit like on the option play at Wisconsin) or when you throw an interception?
Yeah. He picked me up and asked me, Was I all right? and I just smiled at him and said, Yeah, but that was a real hard hit right there. And, we laughed it off and continued to play. And, believe it or not, the first person that came to me after the interception was him. He said, Hey, hey, hey. Stop being so hard on yourself, man. You did a real good job today. Let's keep this going, don't worry about it, it's in the past now. The relationship has been real strong. He's been doing a real good job. He's like a quarterback up there on the offensive line. It's just great to have that leadership that he has to keep the o-line together...
Some people have already started to throw your name into the Heisman race. Have you heard about any of that and what do you think about it?
You know, I didn't really hear about it until last week. It's real flattering, man. It's real exciting to think about. When you think about it if the wideouts don't make the catches and do the things that they've done and the running backs don't run as hard to open up play-action, and if the offensive line doesn't pass block and run block, my name is not mentioned at all. So, it's somewhat of an individual award but it's a team effort in order for me to even be mentioned in that thing. Like I said, it's very flattering but that is the least thing I'm thinking of right, man. We just want to win football games. That's something that's real nice to think about but as of right now, that's not the main focus. It's real nice to hear but you can't really worry about that right now.
You've talked about hanging out with the team and how important that was over the summer spending time with them. How much of that was a result of your conversations with Mike Robinson? Was he steering you in that direction?
Well, yes, because that's something that he did. He said, Man it's important that you have a nice strong relationship with each player. It's important that you make yourself available to each player because they'll remember that and it will rub off on the field. And, it's important that you gain the players' trust. So, it's kind of hard to go out there and perform when you don't really have the confidence of everyone to look in your eyes and believe in you. It's important that you go out and gain the trust and gain the coaches' trust.
Was that hard to do because you hadn't really played much to that point?
No, I really don't think it was that difficult because I think everyone realized how hard I was working during the off-season. And then once it started into spring ball and over into preseason camp, I think they realized the work ethic and realized how nice of a person I was, trying to make myself available for everyone. I want to be everyone's friend and I feel that that is important as a quarterback. You have to make yourself available to everyone and when the season started and we started playing so well, I really started to notice that the guys were responding to me. It took a little time but I knew it was going to come around sooner or later as long as we're doing the things to keep scoring.
When all the Terrelle Pryor stuff was going on in the spring, do you remember how you felt during that whole process because a lot of people were saying Penn State really didn't have a quarterback and everyone wanted Pryor so badly. How did you feel during that whole process?
I didn't really know what to feel, man. I guess upset or, not really upset because Terrelle Pryor was just another guy that we were recruiting. And, not to mention we have Pat Devlin here and then there was talk about, like you said, Who is going to be the quarterback? The only thing I did was work on what I had to work on to try to become the man. And, I feel like it paid off. I just tried to push everything back because there were people that would go to my father and ask, Now that these guys are trying to get Terrelle Pryor, are you considering transferring your son? Like, they were already saying that Pryor was going to come in and take some people's jobs and stuff like that. That was frustrating to my dad. That was frustrating to me because people would go to my dad about that and I really didn't think that was fair. But, things went where they were supposed to and I'm really not sure what would have happened if Terrelle Pryor would have came here. But all I know is that I worked hard to get this job and it is paying off now.
If Terrelle Pryor were there, who would be your starting quarterback right now?
I don't know. I would hope it would still be me because I feel like I'm one of the guys on the team that really works the hardest because I had something to prove to the guys. No one really knew how well I would play so I would just have to go and work hard, and I did. And, that's not my decision, man. That would have been Joe and Jay's decision and it's all about who produces the most on the field and who develops the fastest. Because, you gotta mention the quarterbacks that are still here with Pat and Paul so, I really don't know, man.
Rich Rodriguez said this week that he recruited you. Did you give any consideration to playing for Rich Rodriguez?
Well, you know, honestly, West Virginia was one of my first choices. But, what had happened was I wasn't quick to make the decision to go ahead and commit because there were other teams that were interested in me. And, what had happened was, I guess I took a little too long to commit to West Virginia. Someone did ahead of me and once that happened, they stopped contacting me. That's what had happened. Right around that time, Penn State had come along. Penn State was the next school that I liked the most because of the way they recruited me. So, I chose to go here. But, West Virginia was a top choice.
There had to be times when this opportunity seemed so far away when you were the backup here or even when you were at Kiski. How did you get through those times and where did your patience come from?
My patience came from my parents. There were times when I was fighting to get that test score in order to come up here. I needed a 21 on the ACT and I kept getting 19s and 20s and 19s and 20s. I remember calling my mother and telling her that I was ready to give up. I couldn't take it no more, maybe this wouldn't work, this isn't for me, maybe I just need to try something else. But, she told me you better not quit. If you start something, you better finish it. And, I really thank her for staying on me for everything. Without her, I would have probably hung it up. But, the patience really comes from my mother. She's one of the most patient people in my family and she always tells me the people who are the most patient are the ones who benefit the most. And, once I got here I really wanted to work hard. I just wanted to play and everything has played out so far.
How many times did you take the ACT?
Oh my gosh. Six times? Seven times?
And you needed a 21 you said?
Yeah, I needed a 21 and my final test, I ended up getting a 24, like blew it out of the water after I took some classes for it.
Joe Paterno said to completely toss out the Michigan-Toledo game but do you look at this Michigan team and say, Wow, this squad has a lot of issues?
Well, we didn't completely ignore the game from last week but we just know what type of teams in Michigan that comes to play hard, each and every year. Right now I think they're going to feel like they can be a spoiler and things like that. They're going to be like, Penn State hasn't beaten them in a long time so that's something they're really going to think about as well. But, we just have to work hard this week because their defense is a pretty good defense. Like I said, we're not going up against how they played against Toledo. Were going up against how they came back and won against Wisconsin. Because, they can create some turnovers and things so we just have to be on our Ps and Qs.
The losing streak to Michigan is a sore spot with Penn State fans. Do you have an appreciation for how much a win against Michigan would mean for all of the Penn State people?
Obviously, it would be a big win for each and every one of us because there's not a person on this roster that has beat Michigan yet. So, that's something that we're thinking about but at the same time we can't really dwell on that because we have to prepare for this game. This is going to be a good game. There's not a doubt in my mind because they're going to come in here ready to play. Like I said, we just can't dwell on it and we have to just stay focused and I think if we continue to do that, we will be fine for Saturday.
What was the issue with the ACT because you're obviously an intelligent guy and have done well in school here. Was it a mental thing you just had trouble getting over it or what?
I'm just not very good at test taking and I guess that's what had happened. I prepared for it, did what I could, took the time out to focus in on it. But then once I had (taken) classes, I had really developed a way to take the test because I'd taken it so many times and it eventually worked out for me. But, I don't know, it just wasn't working for me at the beginning.
Was that when you were at Kiski?
You've said in the past that nobody plays a perfect game but can you point to one game seven games in that you feel that you personally and the offense has come the closest to meeting your full potential?
You know what, man, I really don't have an answer for that because there were mistakes made in each and every game. And, little things that we critique the next Monday after a game. I think one of our best game when we faced adversity was Illinois. That's the thing that I think sticks out the most because they jumped out first against us and we fought back and then eventually our defense did a good job against their offense and we were able to do some things to take the lead. But, I'd probably have to say Illinois.
Do you feel like your getting closer to that each week?
Well, yeah. I think so. And it all comes from the preparation that we have each and every week to get ready for each game. Our coaches have done a good job all year to get us ready for the games and they've done a good job of preparing us, showing us everything that the other team is running and coach Joe has done a good job of making sure that we don't get fat headed. Because, he said it easily can be done with all of the success that's been going on. But, it can easily go the other way and then you lose everything so it's important that you keep your foot on the gas pedal and just continue to work.
What other teams really went after you the hardest?
Well, Indiana was the first team that offered me a scholarship. My whole mindset about the school I wanted to go to... I wanted to go far but not too far away from home and I guess the teams that just really stuck out to me was West Virginia because of how interested they were. A MAC school, Toledo, they were really interested in me as well, and Nebraska, when Turner Gill was there, he did a good job of trying to get me to come to that school but obviously, that was a little too far for me. But, it all came down to West Virginia and Penn State and once West Virginia had backed off, once they had gotten the commitment, Penn State was the place for me.
What kind of a relationship do you have with Rich Rodriguez and will you go up to him after the game on Saturday to catch up a bit?
Our relationship really isn't that tight. Coach Castille is one of their assistant coaches, he was their recruiting coach. He recruited me and I remember going down on a visit and actually sitting down with coach Rodriguez. He was a real good person, a real down to earth guy, a guy who likes to really work and didn't beat around the bush with telling me what type of offense, what type of player he thinks I was and how I fit in their offense. He's a real good guy. I will, if I can get to him, I will go to him this week regardless what happens on Saturday.
Do you feel like you own the huddle now?
Yeah. I feel like the way things have been going and the way they've been reacting, I look at those guys in the eyes before each play and those guys are looking at me back and I realize that, OK, those guys trust me. Those guys believe that we can get the job done, that I can get the job done if needbe, so yeah, I'd say so. It took a while, it took a while, but, it all comes from the faith that they have in me.
Are you all business in there or do you kind of mix it up and joke every now and then?
Actually, I'm the one that's all business and A.Q. is one of the guys that tells me to smile. But, usually when I smile or try to relax a little bit or get lax, it's when things start messing up. So, being serious has worked for me so I'm going to continue to stay that way.
What has been the best advice you've received about being a quarterback at Penn State?
One of the things Mike had told me was to remain patient and be able to remain poised and confident when we face adversity because it's going to come and some things may not go your way. You have to remain calm and you have to be able to stand in there and roll with the punches.